Migraine is a primary headache disorder which has complex neurogenic pathophysiological mechanisms still requiring full elucidation. The sensory nerves and meningeal mast cell couplings in the migraine target tissue are very effective interfaces between the central nervous system and the immune system. These couplings fall into three categories: intimacy, cross-talk and a shared fate. Acting as the immediate call-center of the neuroimmune system, mast cells play fundamental roles in migraine pathophysiology. Considerable evidence shows that neuroinflammation in the meninges is the key element resulting in the sensitization of trigeminal nociceptors. The successive events such as neuropeptide release, vasodilation, plasma protein extravasation, and mast cell degranulation that form the basic characteristics of the inflammation are believed to occur in this persistent pain state. In this regard, mast cells and sensory neurons represent both the target and source of the neuropeptides that play autocrine, paracrine, and neuro-endocrine roles during this inflammatory process. This review intends to contribute to a better understanding of the meningeal mast cell and sensory neuron bi-directional interactions from molecular, cellular, functional points of view. Considering the fact that mast cells play a sine qua non role in expanding the opportunities for targeted new migraine therapies, it is of crucial importance to explore these multi-faceted interactions.
Keywords: ATP; CGRP; PACAP; autonomic nervous system; mast cells; migraine; neuroinflammation; sensory neurons.